Black Swan moments approaching

August 6, 2011 | By | Reply More

Even since my workplace put a television screen in the lunch room, I’ve gotten a regular dose of the kinds of things that TV offers. I find it incredibly distressing to see that this is the sort of information America relies on.

Based on my re-acquaintance with live TV, I know that next week, while the financial markets roil (or not), we will have lots of Black Swan moments by all of the financial “experts.” Namely,

The Black Swan Theory or Theory of Black Swan Events is a metaphor that encapsulates the concept that The event is a surprise (to the observer) and has a major impact. After the fact, the event is rationalized by hindsight.
The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

-The disproportionate role of high-impact, hard to predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance and technology
-The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities)
-The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs.

Truly, I don’t know if there’s any sort of “expert” that annoys me more than financial markets “experts,” especially highly credentialed well-coiffed economists who “explain” things only after they already know that those things have happened. When has any such expert ever had the courage to predict a major development in the market ahead of time?  How many “experts” predicted that they market would lose 7% last week (or even predict that it woudl lose 2%?).  I suspect that I (and I’m not a financial investment expert) could make up lots of “reasons” for anything the market does, as long as you tell me what happened before I need to give my reasons.   If the market went up 1%, I’d say, “You see, the DOW is up 1% because Ben Bernancke stuttered in a press conference and China’s 3rd biggest computer factory is 17 days ahead of schedule. And, oh yeah, because a butterfly flapped its wings in Dayton.” I could get away with this kind of crap for many years, especially if I were a fast-talking TV “expert” whose pathetic record (i.e., whose lack of meaningful predictions) was (almost) never held up to ridicule.

We should make these jokers always videotape their analyses the day prior to the market-day they are analyzing. We should make them record their analyses in that same cock-sure tone of voice they use when they “explain” what has already happened. If we did that, 99% of them would look like idiots. They can’t predict short-term markets any more than a historian can predict what will be in tomorrow’s newspaper. They lack the honesty to say that they don’t know. Or maybe they are so arrogant and dense that Dunning-Kruger runs rampant.

Let the silliness begin on Monday.

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Category: Economy, snake oil

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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